Destiny 2's PvP takes everything you loved about PvP in Destiny 1 and systematically removes it.
(Featured image via Bungie.)

Destiny 2 PvP Review: A Case Study in Disappointment

Oct 3, 2017
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(Featured image via Bungie.)

This review of Destiny 2 is focused exclusively on the game’s PvP modes. I had originally planned to do a full game review, but when I looked around, every one of the reviews I found concentrated exclusively on PvE. This doesn’t make much sense for a game whose staying power is almost solely dependent on delivering a quality PvP experience. It’s especially important since PvP is the part of the game that got the biggest overhaul in Destiny 2. For what it’s worth, the PvE in Destiny 2 is excellent. It’s basically the same as it was in Destiny 1, except the story and cutscenes are much better. In other words, the PvE is exactly what people were asking for. But that’s not what this review is about.

What’s New in Destiny 2 PvP?

The first Destiny game was a unique entry into the PvP market. It didn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a game where you’re expected to occasionally vanish in a cloud of magical space magic. Where rockets explode into tiny tracking shrapnel. Where everyone can jump twice, and some folks can even jump three times. The focus was fun, not realism, and the gameplay reflected that prioritization. I was never really a FPS player until the first Destiny game came out, but it grabbed me and I ended up logging several thousand hours in the Crucible. The gameplay was fast, fun, and exhilarating.

Destiny 2 has changed up the PvP by removing all that fun stuff. The time-to-kill has nearly doubled, raising it from 0.8-0.9 seconds all the way up to 1.6 seconds. Bungie increased the time before your health begins regenerating by at least double. They increased the cooldowns of grenades and supers threefold. Even exceptional players will rarely be able to use their super twice in a game. Destiny 2’s PvP isn’t even remotely similar to Destiny 1, and Bungie have nobody but themselves to blame.

Time-to-Kill and Team Shooting

The increased time-to-kill is the base root of the change. Now, instead of hopping around the corner and picking off a lone enemy, you hop around the corner, shoot a few times, and get gunned down by their team. In Destiny 2, it’s never “smart” or fun to try and go solo, because you just don’t have the time to eliminate two players singlehandedly before they focus you down. In Destiny 2, you need to stay as close to your team as possible.

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The time-to-kill is so high that enemies can almost always escape if they don’t want to fight. And this is where it gets really bad. Bungie decided to add a ‘team shot’ mechanic to Destiny 2. Here’s how it works: if my teammate shoots an enemy, my bullets will now do more damage to that enemy. Because of team shooting, staying glued to your team reduces the time-to-kill by more than half. Trying to make a play by yourself isn’t just sub-optimal, it’s downright stupid.

Because of the long time-to-kill, it’s rare that you’ll kill someone before they hit you at least once. And as long as they hit you once, their teammates–who will almost always be close by–can easily mow you down and you can’t do anything to stop it. You can pull off solo outplays on the other team, but you’ll lose nearly every single time because of how broken the team shooting mechanic is. The message that Destiny 2 sends is clear: you need to stick with your team at all times if you want to win.

Smaller Teams in PvP

That’s not all that’s changed. In Destiny 1, most of the PvP modes were 6v6. In Destiny 2, every single PvP game mode is 4v4. For solo players, this is the nail in the coffin. Playing  against a full fireteam (premade) in Destiny 1 was pretty rare. In Destiny 2, it’s extremely common. If you queue up as a solo player, be prepared to play on a team with three other solos against a team of four friends.

Destiny 2 PvP Review
(Image via Bungie.)

Anyone who’s played a competitive game in the last five years knows how difficult it is to win team-based games with a bunch of randoms when you’re up against a group of players who queued together. When you’re a solo player paired with other solo players, you’re always at a disadvantage — coordination is rare (if not downright impossible), and you’ll get torn to pieces by a team that’s capable of working together and communicating. I’ll say it again: in Destiny 2, “teamwork” is the only thing that matters. With the team shot mechanic and the massive advantage of playing passively, premades are nearly impossible to beat. Solo queue players just can’t compete with a group of players who travel as a pack and communicate. Destiny 2 has made having a microphone and communicating an absolute necessity, even in solo PvP.

The lower player numbers in each of the PvP modes makes the game feel more static. You don’t have to split up, watch your flank, or constantly be on the move. If you play League or Dota, imagine playing an FPS game where deathball strats were the only viable option. Going off on your own is actually the worst thing you can do in Destiny 2 PvP, both for yourself and your team. Without team shooting to back you up, your bullets are basically wet noodles. And so, you stay as a group of four. Always. In every game. Forever. Because that’s how Destiny 2’s PvP was meant to be played, apparently.

PvP Game Modes in Destiny 2

Destiny 1 let players handle game mode selection in a sensible fashion. You would select Crucible, and a list of game modes popped up. You selected one of them, and then you’d be put into that game mode. In other words, Destiny 1 did the same thing as nearly every multiplayer game from the past ten years has done: let players pick the game mode they want to play. Try to name a game that handles game mode selection differently. You won’t have to look very hard, because Destiny 2 is that game.

Destiny's PvP was a major selling point for the first installment of the franchise, but the same can't be said for Destiny 2.
Fans waiting for Destiny 2’s release on launch day. (Photo via Wikimedia.)

That’s right. In Destiny 2’s PvP, you can’t select what type of game mode you’re going to play. You queue up for Crucible and you’ll get placed into a random game mode every single time. If that sounds horrible, you’re right. To make matters worse, Bungie has also changed every game mode in Destiny 2, and decided to remove most of the fun PvP modes. You know how Destiny 1 was mostly about quick respawns and fast-paced fighting? In Destiny 2, half of the game modes give teams a finite number of lives. In some of them, you simply don’t respawn. It’s yet another design choice that encourages passive play.

Thankfully, Bungie did introduce the Supremacy game mode, which lets you respawn. Here’s the gimmick of Supremacy: when you die, you drop a “crest” that can be collected by the other team to score points. Since you have to walk over to the body to collect the crest, Supremacy is a refreshing change of pace from the ultra-passivity of other game modes. Unfortunately, it also means that staying with your team is, yet again, the only smart choice. Collecting the crest of a fallen enemy isn’t dangerous when you’ve got a team watching your back, and from what I gather, Destiny 2 players almost universally loathe Supremacy.

Nobody Wants “Realistic” PvP in Destiny 2

I’ve heard the argument that the reworked Crucible in Destiny 2 is designed to punish your bad habits from Destiny 1 because it offers a greater sense of “realism.” In real life combat, the basic principles of trench warfare apply: stick with your team and stay as defensive as possible, because getting shot is the end of the world.

I get where this argument comes from. I really do. But the result is some of the most boring gameplay I’ve encountered in a modern FPS title. The “bad habits” people picked up in Destiny 1 were what made the PvP fun: flanking the enemy, attempting to snipe, and going off on your own to try and make hero plays.

Realism isn’t what I want from the Destiny franchise. Destiny is a game about blasting your opponent with space magic. When you can’t do that, and the gameplay is actually slower than that of Call of Duty or Battlefield or any other shooter on the market, the game just doesn’t have any appeal. Huddling in a corner with your friends is what you do in Destiny 2 PvP, and one-on-one fights aren’t just rare, they’re excruciatingly slow. And don’t even think of using space magic, that stuff is rarer than a chicken dinner in PUBG–which is, ironically, one of many games that offer better PvP than Destiny 2.

Final Thoughts

Destiny 2 is easily the biggest gaming disappointment I’ve experienced in the past couple years. I loved the first Destiny, and I kept playing it because of how much I enjoyed the PvP. Destiny has a lot of PvE content, but after you’ve exhausted it, players are faced with a long wait until the next expansion drops. And while they’re waiting, they’ll usually play PvP. But given the current state of PvP in Destiny 2, I just can’t see that happening.

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Stephen Draper
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Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game. x
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